If so, don’t worry. After all, it is quite normal that not only your colleagues but also the conflicts of the past year find their way back into everyday work. According to a study by the personnel company Orizon, arguments with colleagues in this country are even among the three biggest stress factors in the workplace.
In addition, in times of Corona, home office and video chats, communication with each other is already being put to a tough test. This can lead to misunderstandings – and thus to arguments. However, what distinguishes good from bad conflict management is the severity with which a dispute is resolved.
Heidi Prochaska knows how to de-escalate skillfully. As a long-term bodyguard for top managers in Germany and Austria, she passes on her knowledge of de-escalation in seminars, lectures and coaching. Her book “Security and De-escalation – What Makes Life Better” was also recently published.
Top jobs of the day
Find the best jobs now and
be notified by email.
As an ex-bodyguard, Prochaska is of the opinion that every office war can be cooled down with the right strategy. “After all, de-escalating does not mean clearing up, but only taking the edge off the conflict.” Five basic rules are decisive, as the expert reveals in an interview with Handelsblatt:
- Prevention prevents boiling up: De-escalating conflicts in the workplace “80 percent of the time it’s about prevention,” says Prochaska. “Most dangers can be averted in advance if you know your employees and colleagues well and are attentive. Then you can better assess their behavior in difficult situations and react appropriately. “
- The other does not change: “At least not quickly and certainly not in acute situations,” says Prochaska. Rather, everyone has to start with themselves and adapt their own behavior, “even if that is often the most difficult. For example, I don’t always have to reply to a verbal punch straight away; I can accept it or avoid it, ”explains the expert.
- To listen: “Anyone who feels they are being taken into account and taken seriously usually shifts down a gear,” says Prochaska. This applies to employee interviews as well as to complaining customers on the phone. From the trainer’s point of view, the latter are only king if they behave like them.
- Talk less: “Otherwise the matter will rock up with every further comment or criticism.” In the event of verbal derailments, Prochaska reacts calmly with a calm “Aha”. “A referee in sport does not have to react to every curse a player has with a warning.”
- Caution, humor! Not taking yourself so seriously – that can relax a situation. Just like being able to show weakness in certain situations and laugh at yourself. But: “When it comes to humor, you need a sure instinct,” warns expert Prochaska. “Jokes – especially from the line manager – can easily be seen as making fun of someone.” That quickly comes across as arrogant, disrespectful or even hurtful. On the other hand, even a boss cannot feel taken seriously when an employee ridicules problems.
So far so good. But how should specialists and managers react if the situation in the workplace escalates despite all this? The Handelsblatt confronted conflict manager Heidi Prochaska with four explosive situations and asked for tips on de-escalation.
Conflict 1: The mask refuser in the office
The situation: An employee has been saying for days that he is always on the road to lateral thinker rallies and that the Corona measures destroyed a lot more than the virus itself. After the last demo, to which the employee once again invited the entire department, decides he, in future, will only come to the office without a mask. What to do?
The expert advises: “The employee deliberately breaks the rules, and he knows it too. He must therefore explain why he is doing this. To do this, I separate him from the rest of the workforce and let him talk first, I’m interested in his point of view. When he’s blown off steam, it’s easier to talk to him and explain why the rules apply to him too. ”
Conflict 2: Racism in the workplace
The situation: In customer service you hear that three colleagues are bullying a new employee from Nigeria. There are insults, the new employee is intimidated and calls in sick. You did not notice the verbal attacks yourself. However, the situation was described to you by two colleagues, and it would not be the first time that the employees had attracted attention through xenophobic comments. What to do?
The expert advises: Prochaska would speak to the victim first, “to clarify the situation for me. When I know what happened, I have to speak to the perpetrators and ask why they are attacking someone who is weaker. This leads the perpetrators to explain their behavior. If I can’t reach the perpetrators, I can still try to build up the victim. For example by talking to him about his strengths. If that succeeds, bullying no longer works so well. “
Conflict 3: conflict of the generations
The situation: A young department head takes over a team with three experienced employees. The older men hardly trust the new boss and reminisce about their old boss. The sentence keeps coming up: “Well, your predecessor always did it that way …” The manager ignores the comment for the first time, but wonders when the right time has come to address the topic. What to do?
The expert advises: “Definitely not justify! The superior doesn’t have to. If there are experienced colleagues, it helps to flatter them, value the experience, give them responsibility, involve them and discuss goals. That loosens the hardened fronts a bit. ”If that didn’t help either, Prochaska would address the employees individually in a one-on-one conversation and make their own point of view clear. Tenor: “We no longer do everything as we used to, unless there are good reasons for it. So what do you expect from me specifically? “
Conflict 4: The physical confrontation
The situation: In a transport company a manager has to give notice to two of his employees due to operational and crisis reasons and asks them to do so in his office. After receiving the message, one of the employees begins to insult the manager, the other threatens him with violence and leans over the table to him. What to do?
The expert advises: With a little preparation, the conversation might have turned out differently, says Prochaska. Her tip: “When it comes to dismissals, only speak in private! If you notice that it is getting tough, then open the door so that your assistant can listen in if it gets louder. And when someone bends over your table, you get up (actually, you get up when someone gets up from their chair). The hierarchy has to be clear in such a situation. The superior must have the upper hand. “
More: These TED Talks bring you more than any management advisor